BMW Refurbishes Munich HQ


BMW refurbishes Munich HQ

24th August, 2006

An architectural legend is set to shine again as the world famous headquarters of the BMW Group in Munich, known as the "Four Cylinders" building, prepares to reopen after a 28 month refurbishment project that includes the opening of a new BMW Museum.

Since April 2004, the complete "inner life" of the 22-storey building and the low-rise building was replaced. During this period, the entire workforce of 1,500 employees worked in surrounding buildings. The move back into the "Four Cylinders" marks the end of the unparalleled refurbishment project. The striking "bowl" of the BMW Museum will be re-opened mid 2007 with a new concept and additional space.

The administration complex, designed in 1973 by the Austrian professor of architecture Karl Schwanzer, was innovative and visionary even in its own days. "Anyone who is against the impoverishment of our existence must decide in favour of form in architecture", was the brave plea from the architect. His bold design, with its suspended structure, made the "Four Cylinders" a milestone in office architecture: the various storeys were hoisted upwards by hydraulic lifts and then "suspended" around a core. The entire area was classified as a listed monument in 1999. Timelessly modern on the outside, completely new technical requirements thirty years later meant that the inside had to be comprehensively deconstructed and rebuilt. "The fire prevention requirements alone have changed radically in recent years", explained Christa Emmenegger, architect and technical project manager at the BMW Group.

The general refurbishment planning was taken over by the well-known Hamburg architectural practice of ASP Schweger Assoziierte Gesamtplanung GmbH, who had already demonstrated their competence in tower block construction (MAINTOWER Frankfurt), as well as in the refurbishment of listed buildings (the Prussian Mansion in Berlin in which the Bundesrat, or Upper House of the German parliament, sits). The BMW Group project was a contemporary overall concept aimed at saving energy and resources. "Schwanzer's design was a technical masterpiece. We restructured and updated it", states Professor Peter P. Schweger. "We carried out the modernisation in line with the character of the building." Even with all the changes required, careful handling of the heritage passed down from the original architect took priority for the BMW Group.

The modernisation was more a living cell therapy than a face lift. Protected by a preservation order, the outer facade, made from silvery shimmering aluminium elements, produced in Osaka, remained untouched and was only cleaned. Inside, everything was radically removed right down to the bare concrete ceilings and floors: air-conditioning and heating systems, lifts, furniture and the complete electricity supply. A "Herculanean" task: 330,000 cubic metres of enclosed space, or a gross usable area of 53,000 square metres were refurbished. 14,000 tonnes of material were disposed of according to ecological requirements. For which BMW specially employed an environmental office.

BMW refurbishes Munich HQ

The refurbishment of such an unusual structure required endless special solutions that could not be provided "off the peg". For example, the loads were calculated with absolute precision on the basis of a reference storey. Every part removed was weighed, since the overall weight had to remain unchanged. The most exciting tasks of 28 months of "creative challenge", according to Christa Emmenegger, included cladding the cross of beams on the roof of the "Four Cylinders" building. In order to protect the four steel-reinforced concrete suspension heads - the heart of the loadbearing structure - against the effects of the weather, they were encased in curved aluminium shells. The Austrian manufacturers not only built a separate factory unit to produce this unusual construction, but also developed a special welding robot for the task. A 158m high jib crane then hoisted the individual parts onto the 99.5m high roof.

All 2,302 windows in the BMW Group Headquarters in the BMW Tower were replaced. Every third window on each floor can be opened automatically. The possibility of opening windows was not up for discussion in the 1970s, when large-scale air-conditioning systems were the ultimate in building services. The blinds, which have been affixed inside because of the listed building status, react in combination with the daylight and the weather conditions. They are electronically controlled by a "yearly shade programme" - an innovation specially developed for the BMW Group like so many other products in this refurbishment.

Working in circular rooms with short distances between workplaces - a pioneering development by Schwanzer - has been retained, as has the principle of the open-place offices. However, practical functions have been optimised and work sequences have been made more efficient. Transparency has been the guiding principle for the entire refurbishment. The contemporary design of the office furniture is reflected in the consistent use of colours: white combined with subtle shades of elegant grey. Aesthetics, dynamics and technical perfection - the Corporate Identity of the BMW brand - are now brilliantly reflected in the inner life of the Group headquarters.

The BMW Group employed a total of 130 companies on the 28-month refurbishment project.

BMW refurbishes Munich HQ

Other BMW news: here.

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